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10th November 2023

Jorja Smith live in Manchester: Second album jubilation meets older hits at Albert Hall

Jorja Smith stopped off at the Albert Hall on her intimate UK tour, performing a mixed setlist of back-catalogue hits and songs from her recent sophomore album
Jorja Smith live in Manchester: Second album jubilation meets older hits at Albert Hall
Credit: Mike Excell

Five years ago, Jorja Smith graced Manchester’s Albert Hall. The then 21-year-old was fresh from her Kendrick Lamar approved, trip-hop influenced, spine-tingling debut album, Lost and Found. Five years on, and the now 26-year-old graces the same iconic stage, this time in support of her long awaited second effort, falling or flying – an album which sees an older Smith muse on her career so far, and come back swinging after a half decade gap between studio albums.

Backed by three singers, a percussionist, drummer, bassist, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist, Smith was the last to emerge from backstage after the 9pm sharp start. An early rendition of album track ‘Feelings’ got the crowd going after an impressive but static start, with J Hus’ verse being played over the track.

All the components were there for a spectacular show, and Smith’s performance of 2021’s sumptuous ‘Addicted’ was beautiful. Her vocals evoked of the feeling of treading water in a tranquil sea, yet being surrounded by uncertainty. She performed with a consistent, joyous smile on her face, clearly enjoying performing live again to a keen crowd, having sold out the venue in a matter of hours.

However, for most of the show, it felt like Jorja Smith and her band didn’t get out of second gear. With sustained amounts of the show performing her new material, a lot of the crowd weren’t on board, with many talking through the songs.

Her new material is stunning, but perhaps hasn’t had the time to bed into the hearts of fans, having only been out as a body of work for just over a month. Notable exceptions to this rule were the indie rock inspired ‘GO GO GO’ which brought variety to the set, and the catchy and punchy title track ‘Falling or flying’.

Despite this, Jorja Smith has her not-so-secret weapon; her incredible back catalogue. Kicking of an all-time run of songs for the final twenty minutes, Smith performed ‘Blue Lights’, the crowd stopping their conversations and singing in unison and with power.

A teenage Smith studied Media Studies at A Level, and chose to do her project on Postcolonialism in Grime music; this birthed the Dizzee Rascal sampling ‘Blue Lights’. The sleek, starry track elevated the Albert Hall to different heights, only to be kept at the same level with one of her oldest penned songs, ‘Teenage Fantasy’. Third gear.

It was then time for the party. Jorja Smith’s 2023 single ‘Little Things’ has a degree of inevitability about it. It’s everywhere, whether that be the song itself or the notable DJs that have sampled it this year. But it’s also a beautiful and joyous song, that has permanence. Smith brought the energy up from her revisit to teenagehood and had the crowd at a fever pitch.

To seal off the show, the drummer laid down a garage drum loop, the lights turned pink, and her parting gift was the note-perfect, fun-first collaboration with Preditah ‘On My Mind’. Smith was drowned out by the sold-out crowd’s howls of “I’ve finally found what went wrong / I’ve finally found the wrong in you”, Smith smiling and dancing around the stage, basking in the glory.

It’s been a long absence between Jorja Smith’s visits to Manchester, and for a large portion of the set, I was worried the magic had gone. However, by the final sequence of songs, it all made sense. Jorja Smith’s show was well-structured, allowing her to showcase her new music and her current creative state, as well as an explosive finish. The only thing we can hope for is that her next visit to Manchester won’t be another half a decade.

Spilling out onto the street afterwards, there wasn’t a lot of conversation. There was, however, a lot of people voluntarily and involuntarily humming and singing, “It’s the little things that get me high.” That’s the mark of a good song.

Jorja Smith is on tour until November 10th.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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